Since forming in 1980, OVERKILL
has put out over 20 albums. Despite various lineup changes, the band has
never gone on hiatus and has continued to stay true to the metal genre
it helped create. With Megaforce Records and their management company
led by Jonny and Marsha Zazula, who were responsible for the early
careers of such bands as Metallica, Anthrax and Ministry, among many
others. Overkill released three albums on Megaforce Records before
making the jump to Atlantic Records where a string of critically lauded
albums, including 1991's quintessential "Horroscope", solidified
Overkill as one of the best metal bands of all time. In the past few
years, the band has released such gems as ‘Killbox 13’ (2003) and
Recently the band signed to Bodog
Music and they has set an October 9 release date for the new album from
the legendary thrash metal band Overkill, entitled ‘Immortalis’. The
group's collaboration with Bodog reunites Overkill with Jonny and Marsha
Zazula, previous owners of Megaforce Records, the label responsible for
putting metal on the map and bringing Overkill's New Jersey thrash metal
to the world.
The upcoming album and corresponding East Coast tour will feature
Overkill's latest lineup, which along with Ellsworth, includes original
bassist D.D. Verni, guitarists Derek "The Skull" Tailer and Dave Linsk,
as well as the newest member to join the band, drummer Ron Lipnicki.
At the Wacken Open Air festival some
months ago we had te change to talk to Overkill’s original bassist D.D.
Verni, so here we go. “Your
latest album ´Immortalis´ is due to be released in October, so we´d like
to ask you a couple of questions about it!”
How did you launch into writing
material for ´Immortalis´?
I finished up the music for it last
June. I was done writing it a long time ago! At the time we were singed
with another label and we were getting ready to go into the studio, we
thought we were going to release the new album in January 2006. But then
we went on the Gigantour with Megadeth and when we did that we had some
other interest from other labels, it just took a long time to get it all
sorted out. When we write we don’t think, "the record should be like
this", we just kind of do it what feels good at the time. Each record is
sort of a snap shot of what we’re thinking or feeling at that time.
sometimes when you get your label people involved they´re like, "there
should be at least one song on it that should be a radio song and a
ballad". But we don’t write like that, we just do what feels natural.
After the last touring cycle maybe this record is a bit more thrash, a
bit more old school faster thrash metal. That is probably because we
were on the Megadeth tour. We were with those guys and feeling it and we
just kind of leaned that way, we didn’t think of it beforehand we just
did the tour and got the feeling.
How do you guys come to a musical
agreement when you write a record?
We have an art writing process where I
do the music. Me and Blitz we don’t even discuss who´s going to write
what! I just do whatever I feel like and he does whatever he feels like
and when all this is done we get together and say this is too long, this
is too short, little things here and there. The music will give him a
certain kind of feeling and that´s what he´ll write about.
After all these records is it hard
to write something original or would you say with all the experience you
have it comes naturally now?
Well, it´s still hard because we have
this huge back catalogue and we want to stay true to the kind of music
we make. We´re not going to start making reggae songs or whatever so
it´s hard to think of new ways to do stuff. But the writing process
itself I’d say is easier because I own a recording studio now. This
makes life easier as there´s no time pressure and you have access to
everything you need. We can experiment a little bit more so that part is
easier but thinking up new things is definitely challenging. It is more
relaxed when you have your own studio because there is less tension and
you think you have all the time in the world but at the end there’s
always someone like a record company knocking at your door saying "we’ve
got to have that record now!" The good thing is when you have your own
place you don’t have to work so many days in a row. You can just take
the weekend off and hang out and come back. I think if we were younger
that would probably be a bad thing because we would just spend these
days partying but now we would spend these days resting.
What´s the reason why you guys have
lasted so long?
I think the reason why we’ve been
around for all these years is because Bobby and I have a pretty good
work ethic. I know some bands haven’t released a record for three years
and then they´re like, "oh my god we need to come up with something!"
but we’re used to working, we think of the band as our job. Some guys
are electricians and we’re in a band. We treat it like it’s our
business, we love it but that’s how we look at it.
Is there a special ingredient for
an Overkill song?
Yeah, energy mostly. I like many
different kinds of songs and I also like slower songs, so sometimes I’ll
experiment with that with overkill. I don’t know if the kids love them
as much as I do, they seem to like the more energetic ones. We try to
create a balance. We want in your face tracks, more grooving songs and
something you can sing along to. For some bands it’s a shame that they
can´t have fun on stage, its all business for them. We get to have fun,
we figure you should all just grab a beer, grab your partner and sing
How did you end up signing with
We were actually going to sign with
someone else first. Johnny Z and his wife discovered Metallica, Anthrax,
Testament and us, all those thrash bands from the 80´s. They retired but
they got a little bit itchy and they wanted to get back into it. Bodog
is a huge company and they wanted to do a metal and rock division of
what they are doing, they wanted someone who knew this kind of music to
do this for them so they talked to Johnny and Marsha. Their first
thought was to work with the bands that they knew and that they had
worked with. So they came to one of our shows in Manhattan and they
hadn’t seen us for a lot of years and they were blown away! They were
like, "what, is it 1990 all over in here again?!" So they said why don’t
we do something together and we started talking about different ideas.
We were just comfortable with that seeing as we had known them for many
years, like family. Negotiations went on for a long time so that’s why
it took longer and longer to get the record out but we’re excited now we
committed to a period of about five years and two or three records. It’s
nice that they’re so excited. They only called us about two weeks ago to
see if we wanted to do this show for the fans and do some press. Just a
fun thing, so that’s why we were on the small stage. It was insane how
many people were there, there was room for about 10.000 and there was
almost 30.000 there. The other bands were already booked here so it
wouldn’t have been fair to bump them off the main stage..
Can you tell us something about the
lyrics on `Immortalis´?
I never understand what Bobby´s
writing about! I read them and sometimes he tells me and sometimes he’s
not even sure himself. Sometimes he’ll just write about a feeling, it
may mean one thing to him but to someone else it can feel totally
different. It’s never what I thought it was. I’m not all that concerned
with lyrics, if they are interesting and/or fun to sing along to, that’s
How important is it that people
actually pay attention to the lyrics then?
We’ll it is important in a way, the
worst thing would be to have like a Manowar album, that’s kind of silly
to me.. Don’t get me wrong I love Manowar, they are fun and everything
but the lyric thing is kind of silly. You want them to be interesting,
they have to make the song better.
Have you had any feedback on ´Immortalis´
Blitz and I are overwhelmed, the press
really liked it. Thrash and speedmetal seems to be having a bit of a
resurgence over here and because the album is a bit more thrashy we got
some great reviews here. Germany has been so good to us, for two decades
now we’ve been coming here to do shows. Sometimes it’s frustrating
because they never want us to change but they’ve stuck with us through
everything and they know that in our core this is what we do. German
people more than any territory in the world like that and respect that.
So how would you describe a typical
Even though we’re playing for 30.000
people we try to treat the show like it’s a BBQ. If we could get out
there and pass beers to everyone we would, that’s why a lot of times we
laugh on stage or we’ll stop in the middle of the song if something
funny happens. Us and the crowd being together, that’s our personality
in the band and that goes into our music and our shows. The people that
like us probably feel the same kind of energy, they kind of have the
same philosophy. With some bands because of what they do their fans are
really sort of angry and it’s funny because when you meet the guys
theyre really nice.
Is there anything about ´Immortalis´you´d
liked to have changed in retrospective?
It’s probably too new, ask me in a
year. There’s always things that you would have liked to have done
differently, I can’t imagine writing an album and not wanting to change
a single thing afterwards. Right now it’s so fresh, we really love the
artwork and everything. The production came out great and. I know we
recorded a bunch of stuff here at Wacken and I think they are going to
include some of that stuff as a bonus on the disc so right now it
couldn’t be better.
Can you explain the implications of
the title ´Immortalis´?
We couldn’t find a title for this
album and it was getting later and later. We were talking to Johnny z
and we were telling him that we were looking for a Latin word or phrase
and the next day he said, "what about ´Immortalis´, cause it means
immortal in Latin and it kind of applies to you guys.." In an interview
it was once said that Overkill are the cockroaches of metal, you can
stamp on them but you can’t kill them. And it was also the last day, we
really needed a title! So when it came we all said, let’s do it. No
title track on this album, but you know, we did Overkill and then we did
Overkill II and then Overkill III and then we kind of stopped. But on
this album there’s another Overkill. We just kind of picked up where the
other one left off, I don’t really know why, it just kind of happened.
But for people who are fans of the first three albums it’s good. When we
were recording the song we said to each other, "hey this sounds kind of
like the other ones!" and then Blitz started doing the lyrics for it and
it was a fun thing because it just took us right back. A lot of times
there´s retrospective things that come out but me and Blitz are also
really interested in what is happening today.
Do you think times have changed in
a big way?
Some bands kind of get caught up in
their own history. We’re proud that we’ve been around for twenty years
and we’ve done all these things but we just want to say this is what’s
going on now. You know the Pantera song "Yesterday don’t mean shit"? It
doesn’t! But we are proud of the history we built. I guess we were just
lucky that we have partners in the band like me and Bobby who have a
very similar work ethic and very similar ideas on music and even more so
on how the band should be run and what we want to do. Me and him have
been on the same track for almost thirty years and most of the time we
agree on things. We have a routine. Things have changed so much, when we
were 25 years old we were crazy people, having fun drinking and just
going nuts an now we’re 35 years old and we have kids and it’s just all
different, but in a good way.
Do you have a personal favourite on
I actually have a handful of them,
there’s this one song called "Skull & Bones" that is the first song that we
ever had a guest on. It’s this guy Randy who sings with Lamb of God and
we got to be good friends with him when we were on the Gigantour in the
States. These guys used to come up on stage with us every night and sing
"Old School", they loved it! They’d come up with their beers. So we said
we should do a song where you can come sing. But his voice is very death
metal and the song is not like that at all so when you listen to the
song you’ll hear Bobby and then when he starts singing you’ll be like,
what the fuck is that! And they go back and forth. Its’s something new
that we hadn’t done before, the voices are just so different and it’s
really cool, I kind of get a kick out of that. They’re really good guys,
some newer bands just don’t have any idea of what came before them but
the Lamb of God guys knew everything, theyd been to all our shows when
they were kids, they knew every Testament song. They were so into that
stuff and they were excited that we were going to be on that tour too so
that was really nice.
We´d like to ask you a couple of
questions that´ll let our readers get to know you better..
How did you guys get into the music
99 percent of the bands will tell you
its something they’ve always dreamed about as a kid, you don’t always
think of the end result, like we´re going to be at Wacken, you just want
to play some gigs. We started like everybody did, we played in the
basement, we wrote some songs, you pack your stuff in a stationwagon and
play a gig for 25 people and it feels great and then you do flyers and
there’s 50 people and you grow. At a certain point we were playing up to
2000 people while we had no record so Johnny Z came down with his label
and they signed us. And then we came down here with Anthrax because we
were both on the same label, that was our first time in Europe and we
grew and grew a little bit more. We had good people around us and so we
were able to make good decisions, they put things in place for us. It
happened gradually. A lot of bands have been around for a long time but
they made bad decisions and they ended up with no money. Its amazing
these days how really young kids become stars and the way they are
treated is like they’re adults but they’re children. I didn’t even start
playing the bass until I was 17! It’s a whole different world. Back then
they signed you in order to build a career, they would sign you for 4
records and hope that you would become more popular with each record.
Now they just sign you for one record, if it works they’ll take it from
there and if it dies, it dies.
How do you feel about illegal
downloading of music?
I don’t know exactly, I guess it’s all
kind of unfortunate. It affects the fans, and they’ll get the music any
way they can but if you sell less units then the label will be unhappy
and they give you less money to make the record. So then the record is
less good and the fans will be unhappy so it kind of all works together.
In the future I think things will change even more when it comes to the
way we buy music, it seems it will change into something even I can’t
think of where maybe we won’t be able to buy records anymore and it’ll
all be downloads. Or maybe bands won’t even release whole records
anymore and just do three songs at a time instead so they can control
things more. It’s not so much about the fans as it is about the labels,
they just want to make more profit. It’s trickling away little by
little. Recently a major newspaper in the UK put copies of records in
one of their issues and the labels went nuts. If it was up to me the
fans could just have the music as long as they come to the shows but it
doesn’t work that way.
What kind of music do you listen to
yourself these days?
I pretty much listen to all kinds of
metal and I’m always looking for something new, everywhere I go I listen
to new stuff. Someone gave me a Nightwish record and I kind of liked it!
But I mostly like the heavier stuff, Machine Head is one of my favourite
bands and I like Lamb of God. I pretty much like all the stuff I grew up
with like Slayer and Megadeth and other old thrash bands. I’m not so
much a fan of powermetal. That’s alittle too light for me I guess, I
like it a little more dirty and nasty like Motorhead. Rob Zombie is in
my player right now, I like that a lot.
Which album made you think, "this
is what I want to do when I grow up!"?
Kiss Alive! That’s the reason, I had
posters all over my room all over the place, that’s all I cared about
for a long time. Kids in the seventies, rock ‘n roll metal legends. It
was either Kiss or Zeppelin. I was into the explosions and bat wings and
When will you come back for an
In January/February. The album will
come out in October and we’ll be in the States then. We´re going to
South America in about two weeks and then we’ll take the holidays off,
we have kids and I wouldn’t miss doing the daddy thing.
Thanks for your time!
Current members :
Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth - Lead vocals
D.D. Verni - Bass
Dave Linsk - Lead guitar
Derek Tailer - Rhythm guitar
Ron Lipnicki - Drums
Former members :
Rat Skates - Drums
Bobby Gustafson - Guitar
Sid Falck - Drums
Rob Cannavino - Guitar
Merritt Gant - Guitar
Tim Mallare - Drums
Joe Comeau - Guitar
Sebastian Marino – Guitar
Power In Black (1984)
Overkill EP (1984)
Feel The Fire (1985)
Taking Over (1987)
!!!Fuck You!!! (1987)
Under The Influence (1988)
The Years of Decay (1989)
I Hear Black (1993)
The Killing Kind (1996)
!!!Fuck You!!! and Then Some (1996)
From The Underground And Below (1998)
Wrecking Your Neck (Live) (1995)
Wrecking Everything (Live) (2002)
Extended Versions (Live) (2004)